The Testament of Dr. Mabuse

The Testament of Dr. Mabuse

Perhaps the first sequel to comment reflexively on the nature of follow-ups; gangster Thomas Kent fails to recognize the enemy when he meets him in the person of Mabuse-obsessed (and -possessed) Professor Baum because he has only ever heard "a mechanical reproduction" of his master's voice. As Baum, Oscar Beregi is neither as frightening nor, in the end, as convincingly haunted as Rudolf Klein-Rogge. The supervillain in the age of mechanical reproduction: Mabuse appears in the original person of Klein-Rogge, as Baum and as his recorded voice, a ghostly silhouette wearing a caricatured fright mask, and as the invisible hand guiding a criminal underworld. While Mabuse leaves physical evidence, writings and etchings behind, he's now more an idea than man - introduced in the film as the subject of one of Baum's lectures. Perhaps Lana Wachowski had Lang on the brain, or perhaps this idea about characters, concepts and works of art escaping their original vessels is simply intrinsic to the form. Surprisingly modern in its form for 1933, although Lang had been at the forefront of silent cinema, I still would have guessed this was made at least ten years later. The film contains surreal images of spotlit trees and flooded rooms; early on an assassination is carried out in a traffic jam, and the film ends with a policeman and a gangster driving in the same car, chasing a ghost.